With an increase in antibiotic-resistant strains, the nosocomial pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii has become a serious threat to global health. Glycoconjugate vaccines containing fragments of bacterial exopolysaccharide (EPS) are an emerging therapeutic to combat bacterial infection. Herein, we characterize the bacteriophage ▪AB6 tailspike protein (TSP), which specifically hydrolyzed the EPS of A. baumannii strain 54149 (Ab-54149). Ab-54149 EPS exhibited the same chemical structure as two antibiotic-resistant A. baumannii strains. The ▪AB6 TSP-digested products comprised oligosaccharides of two repeat units, typically with stoichiometric pseudaminic acid (Pse). The 1.48-1.89-Å resolution crystal structures of an N-terminally-truncated ▪AB6 TSP and its complexes with the semi-hydrolyzed products revealed a trimeric β-helix architecture that bears intersubunit carbohydrate-binding grooves, with some features unusual to the TSP family. The structures suggest that Pse in the substrate is an important recognition site for ▪AB6 TSP. A region in the carbohydrate-binding groove is identified as the determinant of product specificity. The structures also elucidated a retaining mechanism, for which the catalytic residues were verified by site-directed mutagenesis. Our findings provide a structural basis for engineering the enzyme to produce desired oligosaccharides, which is useful for the development of glycoconjugate vaccines against A. baumannii infection.
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